The relationship between Law and Medicine | The historical traits

The relationship, interaction and ties between the law and medicine have deep roots in history, tracing back to ages of 4th century B.C.


Shubham Kumar

1/29/20243 min read

The relationship, interaction and ties between the law and medicine have deep roots in history, tracing back to ages of 4th century B.C. The relations between law and medicine have witnessed the continues evolution on the grounds of religion, superstition and magic.

In 4th century B.C, Manu (King and Law Maker), in his book or treatise, Manu smriti, highlighted punishments for various crimes related to illness and intoxication. He highlighted the provisions to punish the culprits of various sexual and other abuse. Moreover, he explained the incapability of mind to perceive, during intoxication, illness and increasing age. His teachings, opened the path to understand the human behaviors towards various circumstances and substance, like toxicants, disease etc.

In 7th century B.C, Maharishi Agnivesha complied all of his knowledge in one single book calls Charak Samhita. In his book Charak Samhita, he elaborated the teachings, knowledges and codes, regarding the training, social status and privilege of physician. Furthermore, he highlighted the detailed description of poisons, its classification and its potential effects and side effects on humans.

The famous Arthashastra of Kautilya is known for providing strong sense of justice. This famous book is the compilation of penal laws and defined medical practices. During earlier periods, the physicians sometimes became biased with their patients. Therefore, Arthashastra of Kautilya, highlighted the punishments for physicians on the grounds of negligence. He utilized the medical knowledge for the purpose of law and to insure justice with victims. Moreover, Arthashastra of Kautilya, mentions about the post-mortem examination of dead bodies in unnatural deaths, murder, abortion, sexual offences, kidnappings and other offences.

The relationship between law and medicine, also finds its existence in the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda (3000-10000 B.C). These historically important books hold potential knowledge about various crimes incest (sexual activity between family members or close relatives), adultery (extramarital relation), abduction (taking a person against their will), killing an embryo, murder, drunkenness, etc. & their punishments. Notably, Atharva Veda, includes the details about therapeutic practices, home remedies and professional treatments for various disease and offences. During the Vedic Age, the status of physicians was evolved, they were recognized as professionals.

Hippocrates (460 to 377B.C.) Father of Western Medicine born & practiced in the island of Kos in Greece, discussed lethality of wounds. His contribution to medical ethics is biggest greatest in our field.

The evolution in relations between law and medicine is still evolving. This evolution leds to birth of two distinctive aspects, which collectively defines the importance and need of relationship and collaboration between law and medicine. These two aspects are Forensic Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence.

Forensic Medicine: The term forensic Medicine refers to the branch of forensic science which uses the medicinal and paramedical knowledge to applicate it during crime investigation, in order to collect, identify, evaluate and individualize the evidences from at the crime scene or related to crime scene, to seek justice in administration of court.

Forensic medicine is the sub-branch of medicine, dealing with the application of medical knowledge to establish and justify facts in civil and criminal legal cases. For example, investigating into cause and time of death. Moreover, this branch involves the examination and diagnosis of individuals who have been injured or died because of external and unnatural causes. These causes includes the poisoning, assault, suicide and other forms of violence. Notably, the examination is done to justify the cause in the court proceedings.

Medical Jurisprudence: The term medical jurisprudence refers to the legal responsibilities of the physicians towards their patients when they are examining or diagnosing them. Furthermore, this focusses on establishment of healthy relationship between patient and physician. Moreover, restricts the acts like negligence, serious professional miss-conducts. Notably, ensures consents, right, duties of doctor towards patients, and proper conduct of ethics. In short, it deals with legal aspects of practice of medicine.

The proper collaboration between forensic medicine and medical jurisprudence is very crucial in proper examination and diagnosis of an individual. The forensic medicine deals with the all the crimes against human beings in which medical examination is required. Therefore, the establishment of medical jurisprudence will ease in their examination and diagnosis. Moreover, both medical jurisprudence and forensic medicine, collectively, aims is to find out the truth. Its particular field of activity is judicial investigation in both civil & criminal law.


  • "Forensic DNA Typing" by John M. Butler

  • "The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation" by Ngaire E. Genge

  • "Forensic Science: A Very Short Introduction" by Jim Fraser

  • "Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation" by Ross M. Gardner